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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  May 21, 2014 4:00pm-6:01pm EDT

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bill that would actually was allowed amendments and in two days we covered the amendments and passed the bill almost unanimously because it had been improved significantly. that's what we need to get back to. we spend more time negotiating to not have amendments than it would take to vote on 75 amendments on a bill. yes, a lot of them would fail. that's typical. but at least the senator can feel that his constituents have been heard. he just didn't have the votes for it. but they have been heard, and that's what we're missing right now. we are not getting to cover the amendments, and they can be covered relatively quickly. so deals are made, then spending bills are all packaged into one massive take it or leave it bill, and the deficit's increased. in 2013, the senate didn't pass a single appropriations bill. there are 12 of them we're supposed to do starting right
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after april 15. we didn't do any of them. we only considered one of the 12 bills on the floor, and that one was shut down because the first amendment the majority leader didn't like. so he pulled it off of the floor, he never brought it up again, nor did he bring up any other spending bills. is it any wonder that in january, 2009, the total federal debt stood at $10.6 trillion and now it's over $17 trillion? we don't budget, we don't appropriate. we just deal make. it's never risen so high so fast in our country's history. just like keeping legislation to one topic per bill, we should look at each spending bill individually. the committee should be able to look closely at each branch, each agency. that's how it used to work before the power shift, but we can make some changes now to encourage more spending scrutiny. we could switch to a biennial
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appropriations process. that means once every two years for each agency. i have introduced s. 625, the biennial appropriations act, and i am also cosponsoring senator johnny isakson's version of that legislation. my biennial budgeting bill would require the president to submit a two-year budget resolution at the beginning of each congress. congress would then adopt a budget resolution. following adoption of a budget resolution, congress would focus on appropriations bills. each congress would debate the defense appropriations bills. however, the other appropriations bills would be split into two groups. the more controversial bills would be debated on the first year after an election, and the six easy ones would be done the year before an election. of course, the bill would mandate at least one joint oversight hearing with the authorization committee and the
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appropriations committee in the off-appropriationses years for those particular bills. when you are spending a trillion dollars, it's so much money that nobody can look at the details. i don't remember the last time we looked at something as small as a billion dollars, let alone a million dollars. a million is a lot of money out where i live. we have got to get back to where we can have some scrutiny on the appropriations, not a one-time deal. congress has 535 elected representatives. when each of us looks at every proposal, lots of viewpoints and experience get put into the decisions we make for our country, but if all of the decisions are made by the majority leader, the vast majority of americans get shortchanged. shortcuts are taken, committees are skipped, legislation is long and the legislation is cumbersome and it's not easily read and it's not easily understood. if you skip all the process where you get to do that, then
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spending will reach all-time highs and we'll get less for our money. that has to change. these are some ideas on how we can solve those problems. we won't change unless those who are here exercise our rights. that may not happen until those outside washington demand it, demand that these and other ideas get considered, demand your senators be allowed to represent you. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska is recognized. mr. begich: i ask permission to speak as if in morning business to talk about one issue, i.r.s.
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overreach. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. begich: before i do that, i do want to say to my friend who just spoke on the floor, i'm one of those who loves biennial budgets. i think it's a great idea and one we should continue to work toward. we get a little longer planning horizon. mr. president, i come down to the floor because there has been a lot of talk recently in different areas about the i.r.s. and virtually none of it is good. let me be clear, the i.r.s. going after taxpayers for debts allegedly incurred by their dead relatives is shocking. tax delinquent employees at the i.r.s. getting performance bonuses is offensive. targeting individuals or groups for their political beliefs is unacceptable. but today i want to talk about a different issue -- vital industry in my state crushed by overbearing i.r.s. enforcement of their own incomprehensible
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regulations. folks who have been to alaska know we have some of the most beautiful terrain in the world. most of the best sites, however, are off the road system. what does that mean? that means you can't drive to them. that means if you want to visit a remote part of the denali national park or try to spot some bears or go to a great fishing areas, the easiest way to do that is by air in a plane. companies that provide these sightseeing services are overwhelmingly small businesses, mom and pop operators. they aren't tax attorneys, they aren't c.p.a.'s, they're pilots. they live to fly. as you can see right here, an incredible view right outside of a glacier where a float plane has just landed. that's why it's so devastating that at least one of these businesses had to sell their planes to pay the i.r.s. and close up shop forever, and
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countless others live under the cloud of uncertainty because the i.r.s. goes to extraordinary lengths to find them liable for taxes. in fact, one company received this massive tax bill, including penalties, even after they had negotiated with the i.r.s. and received a favorable resolution. in other words, this bill came after they had already agreed with the i.r.s. to get rid of these penalties and these interest charges and everything else. the i.r.s. said it was a little mixup, and maybe for them that's all it was, but for a small business, it could mean financial ruin. also, just getting a bill like this would drive you crazy after you just had a conversation with the i.r.s. and resolved this. let me give a little history. air transportation is usually subject to excise taxes which go into a trust fund for airports, much like gas tax pays for
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highway trust fund. but since 1970, congress has made it crystal clear that these excise taxes shouldn't apply to small aircraft. again, the kind you saw in that first photo i showed. and here's another example. these types of planes. no excise tax. since 1970, unless they are flying regular scheduled routes. kind of like when we would go -- i'm going back home from here, i would fly from the airport in washington, d.c., to seattle, then to anchorage. those are regularly scheduled flights. but that wasn't good enough for the i.r.s. they brought down the enforcement hammer on some businesses in nevada and alaska. those companies sued the i.r.s. and eventually lost, so congress came back again in 2005 and said look, we meant what we said in 1970. small aircraft used for sightseeing are supposed to be
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exempt from the excise tax. pretty simple, pretty clear, not complicated, but the i.r.s. doesn't get it. the i.r.s. still won't listen to congress. the i.r.s. still thinks it can ignore the plain meaning of the law, backed by clear congressional intent. mr. president, a lot of folks around here talk about federal overreach. this is a perfect example of federal overreach. congress told the i.r.s. not once but twice small aircraft offering sightseeing services should not have to collect the excise taxes, and still the i.r.s. thumbs its nose at congress and says we'll do whatever we like, in clear contradiction to the plain meaning of the statutes that were supposed to be upheld. mr. president, that's not the way this country is supposed to work. agencies like the i.r.s. don't get to go it alone. they're bound by the constitution to enforce and follow the laws that congress
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writes. i was pleased about a letter -- a recent letter to the air carriers in alaska, the alaska air carriers association in which the i.r.s. acknowledged their guidance was unclear and inappropriately enforced. the i.r.s. offered to give refunds to companies flying small aircraft on sightseeing tours, but while it's a step in the right direction to recognize they got it wrong and try to make it right, they refuse to back down completely. the i.r.s. is still reserving the right to go after these same companies in the future. mr. president, that's why i called the i.r.s. commissioner to my office last week and that's why i'm here today, to make it clear to the i.r.s. that i will not stand idly by while they send alaskan small businesses into bankruptcy, and i will keep coming down here, mr. president, just as long as i have to until the i.r.s. will let these alaskan small businesses do what they do best -- fly and share the beautiful sights of my great
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state that it has to offer to all alaskans and all americans. and again, mr. president, it's happening in alaska, it's starting to happen in other states. my guess is this will just go anywhere there are sightseeing planes. to determine from the i.r.s.'s perspective that they know what's best. the law is clear. even the i.r.s. in their letter has made it clear that their law, their interpretation may be unclear and inappropriately enforced. well, then don't enforce it if it's wrong. enforce it the way it was set out in 1970 and 2005. you put someone in a plane, you take them out for sightseeing, they are exempt. there is no regular schedule. here is what's also amazing about this. i will go to this first photo again. this one here is a glacier. they are restricted to where they go. so when the i.r.s. says well, i flew from point a to point b on a regular basis, well, that's because they are regulated by the federal government to go to that location.
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i think this visitor would love to fly all around the glaciers, but they are not allowed to by federal law. so they are sightseeing. that's what they're doing, and the law is so clear about this. but once again, the i.r.s. has determined what they think the law is. even the f.a.a. who regulates the air industry makes it clear who is sightseeing and who is regularly scheduled. so i would just plead with the i.r.s. to do the right thing here. settle this issue once and for all and make it clear, crystal clear as the law has been passed by congress not once but twice that it is time to get off the backs of these small business people, not only in my state but across this country, and make sure they can do the business they want to do and that is make sure that the great sights of alaska can be seen by anybody any time through these great tour operators that operate in my state and also the operators all around the country. mr. president, i yield the floor and note an absence of a quorum.
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the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. barrasso: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming is recognized. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i actually rise today in support of the 2013 water resources development act and the conference report. i agree with my colleagues who have spoken on this, colleagues who believe that passing this conference report is important for our communities. as a ranking member of the subcommittee on transportation and infrastructure and as one of the members of the conference committee coming out with this report, i believe that the agreement we have here today addresses the issues facing the army corps of engineers and facing our country. we have problems in this country, mr. president, with aging infrastructure. we have problems with the lack of transparency and we have
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problems with fiscal accountability, all of which impact public health, public safety, and also impact environmental welfare of our communities. so, mr. president, as a conferee, my staff and i have worked with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, both sides of the building, house and senate, to create a bipartisan product to address these real concerns. now we may have our differences on some key issues, but the bulk of what we have accomplished is about protecting our states. it's about protecting our constituents, and it was not about partisan politics. for example, issues such as flood mitigation, very important to my home state of wyoming. predicting floods and being able and better prepared for them is a major component in keeping wyoming and other western communities safe. that's why we have successfully included language in this bill for the authorization of the upper missouri basin flood and
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drought monitoring. this program will restore the stream gauges and the snow-packed monitors through the upper missouri basin at all elevations. now, these gauges are used to monitor snow depth and soil moisture, to help inform agencies like the corps of engineers as to potential flooding and also drought in the future. this type of monitoring will help protect communities and will save lives. we also included language in this bill for technical assistance to help rural communities comply with environmental regulations. rural communities often don't have the expertise or the funding to make important upgrades to their water systems. dedicated professionals such as the folks at the wyoming rural water association, they use this funding to go into those communities and to provide the critical assistance that these people need. we also secured an agreement that establishes a five-year pilot program known as the water infrastructure finance and innovation act.
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this program to allow the corps of engineers and environmental protection agency to provide loans and loan guarantees for flood control, for community water systems, for aging water distribution facilities and for wastewater infrastructure projects. it also includes language that makes tribes eligible for the loans. as i mentioned, mr. president, transparency and fiscal responsibility are also important components to tackling the issues that need to be addressed with the army corps of engineers. that's why we've included language in the conference report to create an army corps project deauthorization process. under this process, the army corps would identify projects for deauthorization based on established criteria. and then after taking public input, submit those projects as a single package for an up-or-down vote in the congress. many of these projects,
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mr. president, are on the books, have been on the books for extended periods of time and they've authorized the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars. mr. president, these are projects that are going nowhere. under this conference report, the corps would have to propose a list of the projects to cut. the list would total $18 billion and would be sent to congress for this up-or-down vote. $18 billion, mr. president, is more than enough to offset the entire total authorization of this piece of legislation. it truly is time, mr. president, for the corps of engineers and for congress to clean the books, cut the waste and bring fiscal responsibility to this wrda process. so i want to thank my colleagues, including chairman boxer, ranking member vitter, and former senator and subcommittee ranking member max baucus, for the bipartisan process that this bill was considered under. the conference report is not perfect, but i believe that we
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have achieved a product that is substantive, effective and in the public interest. it's a product that will save lives, maintain the flow of commerce and protect communities for years to come. and, therefore, i urge my colleagues on both sides of the floor to support this conference report and once again thank -- i thank you, mr. president, thank the committee colleagues for their willingness to work together on this bill. i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. hatch: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senior senator from utah is recognized. mr. hatch: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered.
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mr. hatch: thank you, mr. president. i ask unanimous consent i be permitted to give this speak in full. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. hatch mr. president, i want to take a few moments -- mr. hatch: mr. president, i want to take a few moments to correct the record. in his opening remarks this morning, the distinguished majority leader made a number of claims and accusations relating to the tax extenders legislation. as you'll recall, last week the senate voted not to invoke cloture on a substitute amendment to the tax extenders bill. since that time, the senate majority leader has been accusing republicans of voting against tax relief. he said we're obstructionists and that we -- quote -- "work so hard to do nothing" -- unquote. this is, as we know, par for the course. when the majority leader isn't callincalling out american citiy name and tacking them for getting involved in the political process, he's usually accusing senate republicans of one thing or another and doing it so unjustifiably.
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today he attacked me personally for my vote against cloture on the tax extenders substitute saying -- quote -- "the primary republican who negotiated this, the ranking member of the senate finance committee, voted against his own bill" -- unquote. it is true that i negotiated. it is true that i helped get it through the senate. it is true that i got our side to agree to a voice vote. needless to say, mr. president, i can't let this go unanswered. first and foremost, i want to make clear that i support the tax extenders legislation and everybody in this body knows it. and if they don't, then they'd better go take an i.q. test. i want to see that bill passed. and i believe we should pass it sooner rather than later. now, i don't want to speak for anyone else, but i suspect that the majority of senate republicans feel the same way. but there are serious and legitimate process issues at
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stake here. at the time of last week's cloture vote, the substitute amendment had been available to the full senate for little more than a day. and although there were 167 amendments filed, including about 70 democratic party amendments, the distinguished majority leader blocked the consideration of any and all amendments. now, this unfortunately has become the norm here in the senate, where we have voted for a grand total of nine republican amendments in the past ten months -- nine. by contrast, in the house of representatives, where the republicans are in complete control, where the rules committee is 9-4 in favor of republicans, the committee that decides what comes to the floor, the democrats who are in the minority have had votes on 242 of their amendments, in that same time frame.
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sheila jackson-lee, for instance, a single democratic house member, has received votes on 22 separate amendments in the same time frame that all republican senators have combined, received votes on only nine. so, yes, i along with almost all of my republican colleagues voted against cloture -- in fact, all but one voted against cloture on the tax extenders substitute. but i made it clear before and after the vote that my vote against choach was a vote to a-- against cloture was a vote to allow senators, both republicans and democrats, especially those that don't serve on the senate finance committee, an opportunity to amend the tax extenders legislation. something you would think every senator in this body would want to justify and would want to support. like i said at the time of the cloture vote, there were a total of 167 amendments filed. yet the senate majority attempted to close off debate on the bill without considering or
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voting on a single amendment on a bill costing $85 billion so far. now, that's no way to operate the senate, madam president, particularly on a bill as broad and as consequential as the tax extenders bill. there are a lot of interests at stake with the expired or expiring tax provisions, a number of voices that deserve to be heard. why then would we want to rush through the debate without considering a single solitary amendment? it just doesn't make sense. my vote against cloture was never intended to kill this legislation, as the majority leader claimed this morning. as i made clear last week, my vote was for a fair, open, and cooperative process, a bipartisan process, if you will -- something we haven't had much of around here lately. i would have thought the
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majority leader would have been listening last week when republicans, including myself, made it very clear why we were voting against cloture. but either he wasn't listening or he forgot everything we said because this morning he came to the floor to attack us once again, claiming that somehow our votes against cloture on the tax extenders legislation were related to president obama. so let me make it clear for our distinguished majority leader and anyone else who may be misunderstanding what's going on with the tax extenders bill, this has nothing to do with president obama. there's only one person who is stopping the tax extenders bill from moving forward. it is not me. it's not the minority leader. it's not anyone on the republican side or caucus. the distinguished majority leader could solve this impasse today if he would simply allow the senate to operate in the way
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it always has. he knows and he knew then when he made these comments, because we chatted the day before. he knew that my job is to try to whittle down the total number of amendments on this bill, approaching almost 100 for each side, and get it to where we basically could pass this bill. he can come to the floor as often he's wants to to attack republican senators or anyone else, but that doesn't change the fact that he is the one in control here. he is the one who will decide if the senate will live up to its legacy of being the greatest deliberative body in the world or if it will continue to be what it has become, a graveyard of ideas. once again, i stand willing and able to work with the democrats to get this bill across the finish line. i do want this legislation to
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pass. it's important legislation. but i do think we ought to have the senate operate like it always has in the past where each side has at least a reasonable opportunity to bring up amendments that they consider to be important. it's important that the senate operate in that way. and not in the way it's currently being operated. like i said, mr. president, it's not up to me. now, on a different subject, mr. president, i would like to take a moment to address the california drought relief bill that senator feinstein has been working so hard on for the past several months. there is no question that we are facing some very serious conditions across the west, and we need to be doing all we can to provide relief to the farmers in california. and elsewhere. but it doesn't make any sense that this drought has gotten to the point that it has when it could have been avoided.
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this is a man-made crisis. the water that should have been and could have been stored behind the dams in california's central valley during the past several years has instead been flushed downstream to create fish habitat for the endangered delta smelt. now, don't get knee wrong. protecting our natural resources is important, but there is a problem with our system when we put the needs of fish -- and especially this fish -- ahead of the needs of people. this is happening in other states, too. we are seeing the needs to people made secondary to the regulatory requirements that may or may not even be benefiting the species that they are designed to help. i think we have some of the stupidest people in the environmental movement that you can possibly imagine. and they consistently place these trim trumped-up situations
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against human beings and humankind and it's getting real old to me. senator barrasso has an amendment to senator fine stiens bill that would bring come common sense into this situation by allowing for some flexibility for communities that are facing dire situations as a result of federal regulatory requirements. i support the barrasso amendment and would have liked to have seen it included in the california drought relief bivment i also recognize that the farmers and farm workers in california can't afford to have congress playing games with their livelihoods. toker that reason, i am not going to object to this bill. and to have california, where some of the greatest, most productive farmlands in the world are basically shut down for really what are stupid approaches where there could be an accommodation to help both sides in these issues, it's hard
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for me to understand. when the members of the california delegation sit down with the committees of jurisdiction to work out the differences between the feinstein bill and the bill that has already passed the house, i would urge them to implement senator barrasso's proposal into the final bill. this will help rural communities across america to avoid getting into potentially disastrous situations that are caused by out-of-date, out-of-touch regulations. the economy and job creation don't have to be at odds with conservation and this is the perfect opportunity to create some badly needed flexibility to make sure that they are not. and i, for one, would like to see that for a change in the united states senate. i'd sure like to see us depoliticize this place where we could work together again. i've been here only 38 years but i've got to tell you, there were many, many times in that 38
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years where we worked together, we solved the problems of america together, we had the country running well. and, frankly, we all walked out of here feeling pretty good. most people in the senate right now don't feel all that good. first of all, the way it's being run. secondly, because of the partisan divides that exist on both sides, by the way. thirdly, because we have a rough time getting people together in a bipartisan impressive way. and last but not least, because we don't spend much time together anymore. it used to be that senators got together and cared more for each other and cared less about attacking each other and cared less about some of the ridiculous, stupid things that have been going on over the last few years.
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i would suggest to my democrat friends that they start thinking this over because the senate has really gone downhill. and we've got to stop it and start working together in the best interests of our country. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senior senator from washington state is recognized. mrs. murray: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. murray: and i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mrs. murray: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i know that many
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students across the country are waiting on the edge of their seats i and looking forward to school letting out shortly for their summer break. but for many of those kids who participate in school meal programs, the summer can be a pretty uncertain time, not knowing when or where they are going to get their next meal. and it can be a stressful time for those kids' parents as well, who have to stretch every dollar they have to feed their family today. that's a struggle that nicole, she's a single mom from my home state of washington, knows all too well. she has been unemployed now for about a year and she has two kids. she has a daughter who's finishing kindergarten and a son who's just finishing fifth grade. they have relied now on snap benefits to help pay for their groceries and school meals to get help during the school year. but nicole says that last summ summer, without school-provided meals, it was particularly difficult to put enough food on the table to feed her kids. so, mr. president, today i'm here introducing a bill that
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will help our families like nicole's and many across the country. it is a bill to make sure more children can get the nutrition that they need during the summer break. when school is in session, millions of kids from low-income families can get free or reduced price meals through our national school lunch program. but during the summer, hunger goes up in this country about 34% for families with school-aged kids, according to a study. right now we do have a federal congregate summer meals program, which i've long been supportive of. it's called the summer food service program. it's very successful in some areas of our country and i always look forward to working with my colleagues to strengthen and expand that program to make sure that it's reaching as many children as possible. but, mr. president, in a study from 2012, summer congregate meals programs only reached about 14% of the students who
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qualify for free or reduced priced meals during the school year. that adds up to tens of millions of kids across our country who did not have access to meal programs in the summer. and in my home state of washington, u.s. i, just 9.8% oe kids participated in 2012. that means that those kids are more likely to deal with hunger or food insecurity. mr. president, that's unacceptable to me. when it comes to making sure that our kids grow up with the nutrition that they need to learn and to thrive, there are no excuses. we've got to do more to fight summer hunger. that is why i'm here today introducing legislation called "the stop child summer hunger act." and the bill's pretty simple. it provides families with an e.b.t. card that will help them afford groceries during the summer months to replace the meals that those kids would otherwise have gotten at school.
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and it is based on a very successful pilot program that has proven now to decrease hunger by 33%. and some of the demonstration projects had participation rates as high as 90%. scaling up that program with the stop child summer hunger act will help more children get the nutrition they need in the summer months. and, mr. president, the bill is fully paid for and we do that by closing a tax loophole that actually encourages u.s. companies to shift our jobs and profits off-shofer. offshore. and from my perspective, that's a pretty fair trade. it will encourage companies to keep jobs and profits here in america at the same time it will help kids get the nutrition they need during the summer. you know, mr. president, fighting hunger, especially among kids, is an issue that is extremely important to me. i've told this body before, when i was just a teenager 15 years old, my dad, who fought in world war ii, was diagnosed with
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multiple sclerosis. and within a few years, he couldn't work any longer. my mom had to go to work and find a job and it didn't pay anywhere near enough to support seven kids and a husband who had a growing stack of medical bills. so for civil months when severs young, we had to rely on food stamps. it wasn't much but i remember it helping to get my family by during a very tough time. so, mr. president, i know how hard it is for families who are struggling to put food on the table. as adults, i believe it's our moral responsibility to take care of our children, to make sure they can grow up healthy and to make sure they have every opportunity to thrive and learn. and i hope that we can live up to this responsibility by tackling this problem, helping more kids get nutrition they need to live healthy lives. and i hope this body can work with me to make sure the kids who are now looking forward to the summer break, can enjoy it
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free from hunger. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from mississippi is recognized. mr. wicker: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wicker: i rise this afternoon, mr. president, to express my strong support for a new water resources development act, which we can send to the president this very week. and it will be a great bipartisan accomplishment. it will be a major win for economic development also. i am proud to have worked on this legislation as a member of the environment and public works committee and i'm excited about the potential the wrrda bill has to make a difference in states like my home state of mississippi. like many states, we routinely depend on water infrastructure. in mississippi, our ports and waterways are crucial to commerce and our system of levees protects us from natural
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disasters. these modernized ports and commercial waterways are critical to maintaining competitiveness in a global economy. they are essential to boosting trade and job growth across the nation. the house-senate agreement on this new water resources bill, the first in seven years, i might add, would accomplish a number of goals from restructuring the inland waterways system to completing storm protection projects. it would helpen sure u.s. industries have a reliable, navigable and cost-effective transportation network to do business. in particular, i'm encouraged by reforms to the harbor maintenance trust fund, which promises to help help our ports with much-needed dredging. the fund which was established for port improvements is current underutilized. using this money for its intended purpose would
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facilitate critical upgrades and important investments in preparation for the upcoming completion of the panama canal expansion. the u.s. army corps of engineers has estimated that america's busiest ports, including pacific aghoula in -- pascagoula are operating at full capacity only 35% of the time or less. this is unacceptable. as a matter of fact, for other ports around the country, the situation is, in fact, worse than that. a lapse in maintenance can become a vicious cycle. impairing a port's ability to secure future maintenance dredging. coastal ports particularly -- such as mississippi's port of gulfport have been disadvantaged as a result. we haven't received the maintenance, we have less traffic, therefore we're entitled to less future
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maintenance dredging. i'm happy to report to my colleagues, mr. president, that thanks to an amendment by senator thad cochran of mississippi, on crediting authority for navigation projects, ports like the port of gulfport by have greater flexibility in making dredging upgrades. other provisions in the new water resources bill seek to ensure fiscal responsibility by streamlining project requirements and time lines. this means allowing greater private contributions to infrastructure repairs and deauthorizing projects no longer in the national interest. mississippians understand why water resource infrastructure matters. in recent years we have faced very different challenges because of extreme conditions on the mississippi river. first, historic flooding put flood control mechanisms like the mississippi river and
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tributaries project to the test. then the very next year, severe drought turned large stretches of the river into nothing more than sandy beaches. these situations cannot can have a big impact. any disruption in the movement of goods along the mississippi river has the potential to affect staple products like corn, grain and petroleum. when that perhaps consumers are often left with higher costs. the mississippi river alone is responsible for more than $100 billion of america's gross domestic product. for our coastal communities, this water resources development act would also advance beneficial storm protection projects. many of these projects developed after hurricane katrina under the missile coastal improvements program have been left unfinished. their completion would complete
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more resilient coastal communities and lower the risk of future storm damage. of course, our work is not finished. implementing this legislation will require oversight and more can be done to improve our inland waterways trust fund and to protect medium use ports. i hope in a couple of years we will be considering another water resources development act, in other words, mr. president, i hope we don't wait another seven years for a wrda. but today and tomorrow we have an opportunity for a great step forward demonstrating the strong bipartisan cooperation that exists in the house and senate for america's future vitality and competitiveness. thank you, mr. president. and --. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. brown: thank you,
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mr. president. i rise today to discuss the growing problem with u.s.-china relations. earlier this week we saw another example how the chinese communist government will do everything it can, anything, to get ahead. the united states of america, something that rarely, rarely happens, charged five chinese military officers and accused them of hacking into american nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets. this is not only a national concern, a -- a national security concern, it's an economic concern. two who were allegedly hacked are u.s. steel and the united steel workers union, organizations i've helped to file unfair trade practices bens china's state-owned companies. so it's not absolutely certainly a cause and effect, but these two internet -- entities, a steel company and union, filed
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unfair practices against china and now u.s. government is filing charges, legal charges against them for going after these two companies against the chinese. we won these trade cases because we held china's feet to the fire and used our trade laws to level the playing field for our steel companies in -- and our steel workers. jobs were saved, factories stayed open because of these trade cases and that's precisely why china's targeting these companies. mr. president, we know a couple of things. we know the chinese will do just about anything to get ahead economically. fair enough. but we also know that china will cheat and spy, the best example is currency manipulation which makes chinese exports more competitive when you manipulate the currency, when china sells products into the united states the price is less, basically subsidizing chinese exports into
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the u.s. putting u.s. workers out of jobs. when u.s. companies export to china, the prices are higher for these american goods making them significantly less than competitive, if you will, in china. when china cheats on currency our workers at u.s. steel and valoek steel in youngstown and t.m.c. in brookfield, these workers lose out. when our workers suffer, our economy suffers. a report by the peterson institute of conservative think tank, found the currency manipulation by foreign governments cost the united states between -- quite a range -- 1 million and 5 million jobs. increasing the trade deficit by $500 billion a year. these are jobs, manufacturing jobs that are about export or competing with imports, they're almost always pretty good paying jobs. our trade deficit with china in
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the last -- in 2012 broke $300 billion for the first time. and then in 2013 for the second time it broke a billion dollars. the report of the economic policy institute notes addressing currency manipulation is the single most important policy change for u.s. workers. the single most important policy change for u.s. workers. e.p.i. argues up to 5.8 million american jobs, 40% in manufacturing, would be created if currency manipulation were eliminated by next year. it would reduce the goods deficit by at least $200 billion. for my home state of hay ohio, e.p.i. found eliminating global currency manipulation by next year would create 250,000 jobs, 76,000 in manufacturing, reduce ohio's unemployment rate by three points, increase ohio's g.d.p. up to $17 billion, improve the fiscal position of ohio's state and local goflts up to $3.7 billion.
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that's just in ohio. that doesn't cowfnt connecticut, doesn't count arizona, the other 47 states. that's why i've urged the administration to be more aggressive in leveling the playing field for american workers. we should pass my bipartisan legislation with senators graham and hagan and others which would treat currency manipulation as an unfair trade subsidy and require the commerce department to investigate currency manipulation. it's why we must urge chinaly compli with the world trade organizations and implement all the w.t.o. rules against it. the report paints a sobering picture of the chinese state's efforts to intervene in the economy and unfairly help chinese businesses despite its w.t.o. commitments it wouldn't do that. it has not agreed to the procurement agreement.
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our businesses miss out on $100 billion in contracts. in other words, china won't let us sell into their country in many cases because they don't follow the procurement, w.t.o. procurement agreement. another position, the retaliatory duties against countries bringing w.t.o. cases against them. i was speaking to an executive at a.k. steel, david horn, an executive about this at a.k. steel in southwest ohio. china not only lost a t.w.a. challenge but now appears to not comply with the ruling. the continued imposition of these duties even after w.t.o. ruled against it has caused significant harm to companies like a.k. steel that i mentioned based in westchester, ohio. the issue of retaliation figured prominently this the cyber espionage cases. several american companies and the steel workers union were
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targeted -- that were targeted were taking place in trade chase cases to challenge china's trade practices. they try to intimidate government from holding them. living up to their trade obligations promoting the rule of law in china, not only benefits american companies and american workers, american local communities, it also benefits the chinese people that are already example every chinese companies willing to play by the rules. i applaud the announce a chinese producer of auto safety glass has finalized its agreement to buy the former general motors plant in lorain, ohio. it's an example how fair trade and direct investment going both ways can benefit the chinese and create 800 jobs in ohio. to have a relationship there must be a level playing field.
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which brings me to my final point, mr. president. if china continues to manipulate its currency, cheating american workers and businesses, refuses to abide by w.t.o. rules, is now accused of trading -- stealing trade secrets from american companies and unions, why in the world, why in the world, mr. president, would this senate even consider and why would the president consider entering into a bilateral investment treaty can with china? have we not learned? 1999, the year 2000, we passed permanent normal trade relations with china. many of these issues were aired then. china said they would follow the rule of law. china said they would do it right. china hasn't followed the rule of law. china hasn't done it right. china hasn't played fair. we're considering entering into a bilateral investment treaty with china. mr. president, i don't think so. i yield the floor. ms. klobuchar: mr. president?
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the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the consideration of calendar number 88, s. 394, the metal theft prevention act, that the bill be read a third time and passed and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: mr. president, reserving the right to object, the theft of valuable metal is a serious crime, one that can damage valuable infrastructure, sometimes government infrastructure and that can cause serious harm to businesses and to the owners of the infrastructure at issue. for this reason, many states including my own state of utah have enacted measures to deter such criminal activity and punish harshly those who engage in this type of criminal activity. these measures are generally appropriate, but where the federal government enacts legislation creating criminal
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penalties, we as lawmakers must be careful to respect the constitution's enumerated powers and its constitutionally ordained structure of federalism. i have heard concerns expressed regarding people who steal valuable metal and cross state lines to sell stolen metal. while i would support federal legislation addressed to such truly interstate unavoidably national circumstances, i cannot support legislation that more broadly regulates intrastate conduct. because this bill exceeds congress' power under the commerce clause and it i am poses a federal regulatory scheme in an area of the law that the constitution properly reserves to the states, i must object to the senate passing it by unanimous consent. the presiding officer: objection is noted. the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i appreciate hearing senator lee's
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objection, but i truly believe this is an issue that has been delayed for too long. the bill passed the judiciary committee by voice vote last june, yet businesses, communities and individuals continue to be victimized, and this is a bipartisan bill, mr. president. this is legislation that has been introduced with senator graham of south carolina, with senator hoeven of north carolina, two republicans as well as senator schumer and senator coons. as i noted, it passed the judiciary committee but we still have objections on the other side, people that are holding this bill up. at the same time metal theft continues to rise across the country, and this bill does not create the kind of burdens that my friend mentioned. this bill is very narrow. the only crime that it creates for a federal crime is a crime of theft of critical infrastructure. critical infrastructure,
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something that could threaten the national security, and this is not a far reach given that we have seen people stealing copper pipes, given that we have seen houses blow up. it is not a far reach at all. secondly, what does this bill do? well, it leaves it to states to decide what metal theft laws they want because in the end, it does not preempt those laws. if they have laws that are on point, if they have laws relating to metal theft that create some kind of a requirement that not everything can be paid for by check so that law enforcement -- by cash so that law enforcement can actually track this, then you have a situation where that state law would govern. it is not an overall burdensome law and in fact many states are adopting these kinds of laws and our problem is there are some states that refuse to adopt these kinds of laws and so people are stealing metal from places like minnesota and bringing into those states to
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scrap metal dealerships that are accepting that metal and that don't have to report any kind of information to the police, don't have to have any recordkeeping, and we have a national problem. if you don't believe me, listen to this story. just last week, in my home state, metal thieves robbed dozens of veterans' graves, veterans' graves, mr. president, as we are approaching memorial day. what did they do? they took the brass rods that hold their symbol of service. so if people want to tell me this isn't a problem, people are stealing stars on veterans' graves and they are stealing the brass rods that hold their symbols of service. just when families are gathered for memorial day, we have metal thieves wreaking havoc because they can go to some scrap metal dealer that isn't following the law and sell it and no one's going to keep track of who they are. this is a crime. this is a crime. it is not the first time.
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on memorial day in 2012, thieves stole more than 200 bronze star markers from veterans' graves in asanti county, minnesota. so i ask my colleagues who are holding up the bill, how do you explain defending this kind of practice and allowing it to continue when this metal is being taken because it's valuable and it can be brought to scrap metal dealers that aren't following the law? metal thieves have become infamous for shameless acts like this. these thieves will stop at nothing to get this high-priced metal and make a quick buck. last month, thieves stole the aluminum wheelchair ramp from the front steps of a man's house in washington, stranding the man inside. enough is enough. are our friends going to be listening to some scrap metal dealers when most of them follow the law but clearly some don't follow the law? is that what we are listening to in this chamber?
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are we going to listen to the veterans in this country? are we going to listen to the police groups? by the way, this bill has been endorsed by the chiefs of police. this bill has been endorsed by the fraternal order of police. this bill has been endorsed by major county sheriffs. so i ask are we going to listen to those groups or are we going to listen to the scrap metal lobby? in minneapolis, thieves have targeted the city's oldest continually used church. first they stole the copper down spouts. then they came back to steal two air conditioners and gut the copper supply lines to the kitchen freezers before the church even had time to replace the stolen air conditioners, the thieves came back a third time to steal a third air conditioner and gut the newly replaced copper lines. replacing the stolen items and installing security fixtures has cost the parish thousands of dollars that could have otherwise been spent on the good work of the church. and the thefts have cost the
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parish more than money. it has also cost a tradition. this church has been searching french meat pies since the late 1800's, but this year they had to cancel it because of the thieves, last winter at a recreation center in st. paul, minnesota, thieves stole $20,000 worth of pipe from the outdoor ice rink, causing the center to close until local businesses donated labor and materials to make the repairs. $20,000 worth of pipe, and the problem is the replacement is much more than $20,000. it was hundreds of thousands of dollars because we have to repair the whole ice rink. in rochester, minnesota, i met with local businesses that have been robbed by metal thieves. one local business 12 times in just the past two years and suffered more than $150,000 in losses, similar to the stories that senator hoeven and i heard when we met with electric companies in fargo and in
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morehead. during one of the robberies in rochester, thieves even stole a truck with a company logo on it and then used the truck to rob other construction sites without raising suspicion. across the country, copper thieves have targeted construction sites, power and phone lines, retail stores and vacant houses. they have caused explosions in vacant buildings by stealing metal from gas lines and they have caused blackouts by stealing copper wiring from streetlights and electrical substations. you know why? because they have a willing buyer. they have people that are willing to buy their stuff and won't even -- just even take the care of keeping records and taking checks so law enforcement can later investigate who that is. these next examples show just how dangerous metal theft can be. last october, four people were injured in an explosion at a university of california-berkeley electrical station. officials blamed it on copper theft that occurred two hours
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before the explosion. the copper is stolen, the pipes don't work, the workers put it on and there is an explosion and there are four people injured. georgia power was having a huge problem with thieves targeting a substation that feeds the entire atlanta airport, one of the busiest airports in the world, the delta hub. the airport was getting hit two to three times a week and surveillance didn't lead to any arrests. this is a crime, mr. president, that knows no borders, no boundaries. it happens in cities, it happens in suburbs and it happens certainly in rural areas. depending on the case, it threatens public safety, weakens our infrastructure and undermines our businesses. the impact is staggering. in one study, the u.s. department of energy found that the total cost to industries affected by copper theft would exceed over $900 million every single year. $900 million every single year. and between 2010 and 2012, the national insurance crime bureau
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identified nearly 34,000 insurance claims related to metal theft. to put that number in perspective, it marked a 36% increase from the 25,000 claims reported between 2009-2011. that 25,000 number was more than 80% increase from the previous reporter period. so look who is supporting this bill. and then you ask my colleagues so you're going to listen to these businesses or are you going to listen to the scrap metal dealers? air conditioning contractors of america is supporting the bill. american public power association supporting the bill. american supply association, associated builders and contractors, century link, edison electric institute, heating, air conditioning and refrigeration distributors, the home depot, international council of shopping centers, independent electrical contractors, independent telephone and telecommunications alliance, lowes companies, national association of electrical distributors, national association of home builders, national electrical
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contractors association, national retail federation, national rural electric co-op association, retail industry leaders association, chief metal air conditioning contractors, wind stream corporation, exxo communication, and i could go on and on. these are mainstream businesses on main street that support this bill because they are getting ripped off, so what can we do about it? we know why it's happening and that's because there is a global demand for copper, especially from china and india, and higher prices encourage thieves to steal copper and other metals. now, we all know that the vast majority of scrap metal dealers are legitimate and law-abiding. they don't want to buy a stolen property. i have worked extensively with the scrap metal industry in my legislation. we have made some changes that they have suggested in order to improve the effectiveness of the bill and lessen the burden on scrap metal dealers wherever possible. but given the scale of the
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problem, i believe we have to take strong steps to fight these crimes and give law enforcement the tools that they need. i worry that at some point we're going to have a major break in our federal infrastructure and everyone will look back and wonder why they listened to some lobbyists representing the scrap metal dealers instead of all these businesses i mentioned and instead of the police. they will look back to this moment. at least they could listen to the beer dealers. they support this bill because their kegs are getting stolen all over the country. so what does our bill do? well, first of all, it puts modest record-keeping requirements on the recyclers who buy scrap metal, limiting the value of cash transaction and requiring sellers in certain states to prove that they actually own the metal. the bill also makes it a federal crime to steal metal from critical infrastructure and directs the u.s. sentencing commission to review relevant penalties. our intention is not to preempt state laws, so if a state already has laws on the books regarding metal theft, they
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would still apply and the federal law would not. these criminals work across state lines, we know that. they take advantage of states without the types of laws so this bill is intended to fill the gap in states that don't have these protections. my people are getting ripped off in minnesota because some states don't have laws. this is a federal crime, and it's a federal problem. shameless, shameless robberies of veterans' graves make clear that we can't just let this go any more. it is time to pass this bill. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. flake: there has been a great deal of talk lately about earmarks. some members are even talking about bringing them back. now, i -- i grew up earmarking. i grew up on a ranch where we
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earmarked cattle. that's where earmarking gets its name. i didn't think much of the practice then. we already had a brand on the critter. an earmark seemed to be redundant. and after a while, we didn't do it anymore. then i got here to congress, first in the house and now in the senate, and i had hoped not to be earmarking anymore, but when i got to the house, i found that the practice was not just prolific but rampant. so i come here today after hearing that some people want to bring the practice back after we had the moratorium placed a couple of years ago, and urge caution. let me explain a few reasons why. one colleague recently lamented the absence of earmarks saying earmarks are the glue that helps legislation get passed. i would say that's a little more accurate to say that earmarks usually represent the lard that
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allows earmarks to squeeze through the door and get to the president's desk. senator tom coburn has spoken often about earmarks. he said at one point -- i think it's the best statement ever made about earmarks -- that they are the gateway drug to spending addiction. earmarks are usually small items, but they lead to massive spending overall. they leverage greater spending. once you get an earmark in a bill, you usually vote for that bill no matter how big it becomes, and we had years and years of that. we shouldn't return to it. but now earmark fans have a new argument. spending oversight. they say that we can provide better oversight when we earmark. we'll keep better track of that spending. they argue that congress is derelict in its article 1 constitutional responsibilities, the power of the purse argument,
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by not allowing earmarks we're somehow derelict in our duty. that's an interesting argument that we ought to explore for a minute. those same people who will defend earmarking as a constitutional right and responsibility will also note, don't worry, it's only 1% or less than 1% of all federal spending. think about that for a minute. if it's our constitutional responsibility, why would we stop at 1%? that's not a valid argument at all. if it's constitutional, then the entire budget, we have to for our constitutional responsibility, shouldn't more than 1% be earmarked? when you look at it as well, congress -- earmarks are never, were never when they were here, evenly spaced. every member of congress in the house and senate has the same
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constitutional right, i would sphaoufplt but with earmarks -- i would assume. but with earmarks, you know with committee chairs or those on the appropriate committees get the lion's share of the earmarks when rank-and-file members get far fewer. the constitutional argument is specious at best. i share a concern that congress has ceded to agency bureaucrats and administration officials much of our discretion over spending decisions. the culprit is not the lack of earmarks but the lack of oversight opportunities. the problem is we haven't gone through regular order for a long, long time. right here in the senate, this is a perfect skpapl pell, we've -- example, we've only had nine republican votes in this senate chamber since july. nine. nine votes. this is the most deliberative body in the world. this is the body that's known, the hallmark of this body is
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open amendment process, open debate, unlimited debate. yet we've only had nine republican amendments roll called in the senate chamber since last july s. that's no way to provide oversight. we've got to get back to regular order if we want to have oversight. now we have a pretty dismal record lately on appropriations bill. we've become addicted to continuing resolutions, the so-called c.r.'s. according to the congressional research service, between fiscal year 1977 and fiscal year 2014, there were only four years in all that 30-year period where all appropriations bills were enacted on time. only in one other year were more than half of them completed on time. the last year that congress actually moved through all the appropriations bill and did it on time was 1997. that's the problem we're having
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with oversight. when you don't appropriate or authorize and appropriate appropriations bills one by one, you lose the ability to conduct oversight over the federal agencies and over federal spending in general. we've had an average of -- since then there's been an average of six c.r.'s per year. this year will be no different. let me just consider some of the other arguments that are made. we're often told that this is the way that we can have check on the agencies. but what we've seen in the past is that when we earmark, the bulk of the time spent by the appropriations committee is not spent in doing oversight but it is spent in doling out earmarks. 2009, the last year we had a lot of earmarks, there were 9,000 earmarks in one omnibus
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appropriations bill. now you tell me, what was the appropriations committee doing for months prior to that? i can tell you, most of their time was spent -- and staff time and what time should have been spent on the other 99% of federal spending was spent securing that 1% of federal spending that constituted earmarks for the members. so we're not exercising oversight with earmarks. we're abdicating our responsibility and spending far too much time on these earmarks. let me just say there are 43 members of the senate who are in their first six years in this body, myself included. i happen to have spent some time in the house, so i have some perspective there. for those who haven't seen the appropriations process with earmarks, i think it's useful to take a little walk down memory lane and to see what it was like in years past.
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jack abramoff, who spent some time in prison for working the appropriations process pretty well, he called the appropriations committee the earmark favor factory. and that, i don't think, has been seriously refuted by anyone. that's what the appropriations committees became during at that time: earmark favor factories. it's worth remembering some of the earmarks that finally galvanized the country against them. the bridge to nowhere, the indoor rain forest in iowa. we could go on and on and on. i went to the house floor myself several hundred times over the period of a couple of years to challenge these individual spending projects. but in 19 -- or in 2008, there was a lobbying firm founded by a former appropriations committee staffer that specialized in getting particularly defense earmarks from the appropriations
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committee. what happened during that time is the f.b.i. finally got wind of some of this and started to investigate. "politico" reported that sources within the f.b.i. indicated they were -- quote -- "conducting research on earmarks and campaign contributions." they did so, this investigation commenced, and within weeks the firm imploded. this is a firm that was worth, according to analysis of taxpayer common sense, clients of the firm received at least $299 million in earmarks. the firm made contributions or individuals from the firm made contributions to members, campaign contributions, of more than $3 million to nearly 300 elected officials. abc news said at the time that the firm's operation -- quote -- "millions out to lawmakers, hundreds of millions back to,
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back in the form of earmarks for clients have made it for all, for many observers the poster child fortas -- for tacit pay-to-play politics." that was a time i don't think we want to go back to. news reports every day were looking at the link between earmarks and campaign contributions. there was a smack of corruption there. like i said, this firm that was doing a lot of this earmarking, as soon as the f.b.i. turned its attention to it, just imploded overnight and went away. there was great public distrust in the process, and as well there should have been. at that time i remember going to the house floor and offering over a series of weeks nine separate privilege resolutions asking for the ethics committee to look at that relationship between campaign contributions and earmarks. finally the parties, both
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republicans and democrats -- and let me take this time to say this is not a partisan issue. republicans as well as democrats over the years past participated in this process of earmarking with equal abandon. i'm not pointing the finger at either party, and there are members of both parties that seek to return to the practice. but we ought to remember that it wasn't good for this institution. and for those to say that we ought to go back to it, i just don't understand it. if it doesn't give us any better oversight, which i would argue that it doesn't because we spend all of our time actually earmarking projects rather than providing oversight over the other 99% of government funding. if there's no constitutional requirement, and frankly, if it's 1% of all spending, how can you argue it's our constitutional responsibility, why wouldn't we be earmarking more of it?
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and then with the corruption that comes with it, i just don't know how that is avoided. i should point out that members will now say it will be better now than it was before. names will be attached to earmarks. we'll have total transparency. let me just say that this investigation of this firm and others happened when there was transparency, when names were attached to earmarks. that didn't help. the corruption continues, and there's no way to police this project, or this process adequately when we earmark in that way. let me just say, i would encourage my colleagues to, when they hear members pining for the old days when we earmarked, remember that congress went for decades and decades with maybe one here or one there on the margins. it was only in those last couple of decades, the 1990's through about 2010, where we had a
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rampant corrupt process, i would argue, that we wouldn't want to return to. and so let's think twice before doing that, mr. president. with that, i'd like to just address one other issue before i stand down. i want to rise today to talk about the water resources development act that's before the senate for a vote tomorrow, to call wrda, as it's called, an expansive bill is an understatement. this sin bell piece of legislation would -- this single piece of legislation would impact the nation's harbors, water lines, infrastructure and of course it will impact the budget for many years to come. yet all the talk around the bill before us today seems to focus on what thankfully has been left out of its pages, the very topic i've just been discussing: earmarks. no doubt this reform-minded wrda is a step in the right direction, and i applaud my colleagues in the house and in the senate who have been able to move a bill that is largely --
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that is without earmarks. it is a real accomplishment, and as it should be done. that said, we -- i do have many concerns about the bill. my chief concern is the process by which infrastructure projects will be authorized. simply put, just because it doesn't have earmarks doesn't mean it's going to be a good process for the taxpayers. under this legislation, nonfederal interest will have authority to propose popblgs -- projects that meet broadly defined goals to the army corps of engineers. once the corps confirms that these projects have met these broadly defined goals, they'll be included in a report to congress that will serving as a de facto authorization bill for feasibility studies, and then on to the conveyor belt to the chief's report and ultimately to construction. it seems to me that in order to be effective, this process relies on things that are either
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entirely unlikely or things that we just haven't seen before. it relies on state and local governments, for example, on being judicious on what they request from the corps. instead, i suspect that we'll see a virtual tsunami of requests flooding in. it requires that the corps be selective in what it ultimately embraces as worthy projects. this again is an agency that has a reputation of never meeting a project that it didn't want to build. and it will require members of congress to ultimately be willing to cross projects off the list to prevent taxpayer dollars from going to them. i think that we could all be realistic about the chances of that happening. during the process of this bill moving forward, i suggested that congress ought to give the process some statutory side bars to ensure that only worthy projects make it through the stringent cost-benefit ratio requirement and type criteria for what will and will not be reviewed.
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in addition to making sure that the projects themselves are actually worth constructing, limited budgets means that some prioritization will be necessary. i believe that it would be prudent to include statutory priorities. unfortunately, these were not included. so my concern remains that this process will put us in the same position that we've been in recently. faced with sizable backlogs of authorized corps projects for varying worthiness, appropriators will be in the position to pick and choose which of those get funded. again, just because something isn't earmarked, doesn't mean it doesn't benefit the taxpayers. once we see how it plays out, congress will be able to adjust this process, i hope. as it stands now, while i sincerely congratulate those for working dill jntsly to move afford -- diligently to move forward, i will not be
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supporting the wrrda conference report. with that, mr. president, i yield back my tievment. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: thank you, mr. president. i have come directly to the senate floor from a terrific event in the dirksen building where hundreds of people who are concerned about what carbon pollution is doing to our atmosphere an oceans gathered to wake congress up. at 5:00 a whole bunch of alarms went off down there, and it was a vection siting, very enthusiastic moment with more than 40 members of congress showing up to reflect our miment to getting this done -- our commitment to getting this done. one of the things that i told people at that rally was that we're close to turning this issue a around. the barricade of special interest propaganda that has surrounded congress is eroding
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away. the denial castle is built on sand. and the sand is eroding the foundations for that propaganda are washing out from underneath it and its collapse is soon. so why do i say that? i say that for several reasons. the first reason that i believe we're close it a win is that for a long time the big polluters have had a free shot at the atmosphere and oceans. pollution costs them nothing. and that's created a mind-set of entitlement, and it created a mind-set in which pollution was viewed as of no consequence. thankfully, the president of the united states has required the e.p.a. to promulgate regulations that will, for the first time, put a praise on the carbon pollution -- a price on the carbocarbon pollution that is emitted. the 50 biggest power plants in
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america put out more carbon than korea and canada. when they're faced with regulation, i think that that's not just going to reduce their emissions; it's going to change the way they see the problem, and they'll be motivated in a new way to think, wait a minute, what is the best way to solve this problem? once ilts no longe it's no longo pollute, the whole equation changes for them. and i suspect that it will not take long between a polluter change in point of view and a change in poisk on th poisk on r side of the aisle. we've seen a recent poll that i talked about on the floor before that points out that republican voters, self-identified republican voters, if they're under the ages of 35, think that climate deny is -- not my words, the words in the poll --
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"ignorant," "out of touch," or "crazy." so if you are a modern political party and you have built your climate change policy on a theory of denial that your own youth cohort, your own young voters under 35 think is ignorant, out of touch, or crazy, that's what i mean by a castle that is built on sand and that is doomed to fall. the third thing that i want to mention here is that there is a very significant role for america's corporations because what you get in this body from the so-called self-appointed corporate mouthpieces -- the "wall street journal" editorial pagers the so-called united states chamber of commerce, the national association of manufacturers -- what you get from all of them is flat-out climate denial, the absolute hard stuff, just complete
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denial, absolute ignorance and ignoring of the science, totally in the tank with the polluters and the oil and coal industry. well, what's interesting is that that actually doesn't represent the views of america's corporate community, and it doesn't represent them by a lot. if you look at big name-brand american corporations, if you look at coke and pepsi, if you look at apple and google, if you look at wal-mart and target, if you look at mars and nestle, if you look at g.m. and ford, take the bulk of the electric utility descrirks look at thindustry, le green energy sector, all of them know that climate change is a real problem, understand the undeniable science of what carbon pollution does to the
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earth's atmosphere and to our oceans and are doing things about it. they have sustainability policies. they have climate policies. wal-mart has probably done more to get rid of the incandescent bulb than any other force on the planet. they are very strong on this issue. but, within those great corporations, it tends to be cabined into their corporate business and sustainability divisions. it hasn't really influenced yet the wait the way they communicah the public, and it hasn't influenced their government relations. and so there's a huge mismatch between the so-called voice of the corporate community, which is really a polluter-paid propaganda effort coming through "the wall street journal," coming through the u.s. chamber of commerce, and coming clue the national association of manufacturers, a huge difference
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between that and what the underlying leaders of what regular americans think of as the american corporate community belief. and that difference is eventually, like these other forces, going to tear apart the foundation of the denial castle. we have the chance to make this happen and to make it happen soon. and we need to. we absolutely need to. the presiding officer is the senior senator from connecticut. his state borders mine. connecticut and rhode island share a critical factor, which is a coastline. and if you follow the logic -- such lodge hike as exists-- --such logic as exists of the denial machinery, they will take you off into distant and complex computer models of what the temperature is going to be and what the atmosphere is going to be like 30 40r years from now.
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-- 30 or 40 years from now. and, yes, that is complicated. there is room to sow confusion. come to the coast. at the coastline, you see sea level rising because of an immutable law of nature called "the law of thermal expansion." the ocean is warming because it has caught more than 90% of the excess heat that the carbon has trapped and when it warms, it expands. as simple as that. and that means, when you go in my state to the newport tide gauge off naval station newport, you see it is ten inches higher than it was in the 1930's. that's a big deal because in the 1930's we had the hurricane of 1938, and if you look back at the devastation that that hurricane caused to our coastline, and you adjust for what 10 additional inches of sea would do and adjust again for
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what stack ago up that 10 inches in a storm surge would do, you end up with a truly apocalyptic vision of the rhode island shore. and it's not deniable. you can't quarrel about a tide gauge. it's, in effect, a yardstick nailed to a dock and the water has gone up 10 inches. to deny that is not just to deny science, it's to deny measurement. and i think it's a bit of a stretch for even the most ardent of my denier colleagues to deny measurement. with a thermometer you measure that narragansett bay is nearly four degrees warmer mean winter water temperature understand thaand that meansa lot to the fd to fish for winter flounder. and it doesn't take a very complicated test to determine what the acidity of the oceans
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is. and to measure just the way you'd measure the acidity in an aquarium that our oceans are acidifying at the fastest rate that's been measured in 50 million years. remember, we're a species that has been on this planet as home sapience for a little -- as homo sapiens for a little over 1200 years. that is a dramatic shift in the habitability of our planet. if you want to know who that matters to, go to the oyster fisheries and look at the wipeout of young oyster spat that took place when acidified ocean water got into the growing oysters and killed them all off. it was simply too acid for their little shells to survive. these are the harbingers of things to come.
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these are the undeniable facts. these are the truths that the oceans tell us, that our coastlines tell us, and for all those reasons, mr. president, i am confident that we will be at serious business to address climate change a lot sooner than the deniers think. the american public are simply not going to put up with a congress that has become the prisoner to a barricade of special interest propaganda when they know better. and now, mr. president, the american people do indeed know better. i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. moran: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. moran: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. moran: mr. president, there's been a lost conversation among -- there's been a lot of conversation among many of us mere ihere in the senate about e circumstances we find ourselves in at the department of veterans affairs and its ability to provide the necessary care and benefits for our military men and women who have become and are becoming veterans. what we heard last week in the veterans' affairs committee was very disturbing to me because it still appears that the
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department of the veterans affairs has no plan to solve circumstances our veterans find themselves in. who in this country would we expect to have access in the most timely fashion, to the highest quality of care, other than those who served our country and who were promised, a commitment was made to them to make certain that those benefits would be available? they were told that would be the case. and i went home this weekend and, you know, part of our job is to help people. mr. president, i -- every week that i'm at the end of a week, i get what is called a weekly state report. i, like other members of the united states senate, have staff who spend significant amount of time trying to solve people's problems with government. we call it casework, and every week i get a report of the people who've called my office to tell me something they want me to know, people who've contacted me asking for help with a variety of federal
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agencies. but it struck me as so evident in reading my report from my state staff about the circumstances that our veterans find themselves in. so every week there is a report that i read, generally at the end of the week, on the wfnltd n the weekend. it's really page after page of things that happened involving me and my staffed and our relationship with kansans who have a story to tell, who have a concern to raise, who have a request how i vote. and this week's staff report, i thought i would highlight it for my colleagues. and i guess that the circumstances that kansas veterans find themselves in is probably no different for me than it is my other colleagues here in the united states senate. and these are just reports from kansans who called or stopped by an office, to wrote us this week at home with the opportunity looking for help, asking me to help them solve their problem
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and tell a story about their relationship with the department of veterans affairs. a veteran from hutchinson, kansas, called to tell us that he filed a claim with the v.a. it's been filed for six months. and he's still waiting for a decision. unfortunately, that is all too common. a veteran from norton, kansas, filed a claim for service shf connected due to agent orage of he has been diagnosed with cancer and is seeking treatment. he's been informed that it can take seven to eight months before they'll examine his claim. and while his cancer is not curable, it is trea treatable. and yet he has a seven-to eight-month waiting period before he can receive benefits. a vet from salina, kansas, in the central part of our state, indicates that he or she received double vaccinations before he was employed

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